How to Hike Safely in Winter Weather

Last week, a hiker was rescued after being stuck in the sudden, unexpected snow from Superstorm Sandy for nearly 24 hours. According to WBIR, Steven Ainsworth, 56, was hiking the Appalachian Trail alone when he got stuck:

“He was hiking the Appalachian Trail in reverse, and was actually in one of the most rugged sections of the trail this week, when the snow hit.  He said when he set out, he was expecting about six inches of snow.  Instead, he faced snow depths of 4 to 5 feet in places.  He was actually stuck for several days before being able to call for help.”

Winter conditions can be very dangerous for inexperienced hikers. And yet, it’s one of the most beautiful times to be out enjoying the Great Smoky Mountains. Here are some principles of how to hike safely in the winter, if you’re not an expert.

  • Do not wear jeans or other cotton pants. You need some kind of pant that is quick drying or waterproof.
  • Only hike with boots. Wet socks can be extremely dangerous. You may want a pair of Gaitors to keep out the water.
  • Wear a water proof or water resistant jacket. According to the High on LeConte blog: “You will be passing under a lot of low hanging branches filled with snow. The jacket will help to keep you dry, which in return will keep you warm.”
  • Never hike alone in winter. According to, “The potential consequences are simply too high.”
  • Stick to trails you’re familiar with. Trail markers may be obscured by snow, so it’s imperative that you know the route beforehand.
  • Of course, there are certain things you should take on any hiking trip. Here are some of them.
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